A Grateful Heart

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.

~Thornton Wilder

On this day of American Thanksgiving I want to take a minute to say a few words. In a few hours I will sit down with some of my family and friends to share a meal. Sadly they won’t all be here, but rest assured I will be thinking of them as my step-mother Cullene offers a Thanksgiving blessing that while it varies slightly from year to year has a familiarity that is as constant as seeing her at the door to welcome me whenever I come home.

I try to live in a state of awareness and gratitude for the everyday gifts of love and friendship that I am fortunate to be able to claim as mine. These are infinitely more dear to me than anything in shiny paper and string and just as important as awareness is for me, so too is acknowledgement.

Most of the time I think I do a pretty good job of letting people know how grateful I am for the connections we share, but just in case….

I’m grateful for every minute I get to spend with my now grown up girl

… and for the love and respect of this man I adore.

I’m grateful for Cullene who mothers me like a child of her own.

I’m grateful for my sister Margaret who lives almost as far from our home state as I do …

… and my sister Jennie who prefers to stay a bit closer to her southern roots.

I’m grateful for a chance to say hello to family I had not seen for years and goodbye to a place that has a special history.

I am so fortunate to have the friends I do and I wish I had time to post a photograph of each and every one of you, but the turkey is almost ready and people will be coming through the door in a minute so I need to say ….

I’m so very grateful for those of you who take time to stop by GOTJ and especially those who leave a comment or two because that’s how the circle grows … increasing my good fortune and my group of friends.

Life Changes & Family Reunions

The picture above was taken around 1995. From right to left we are … Becky, Shelley (with son Josh) McKenzie, Mikellah, and me. Since this picture was taken, all of the girls have children of their own and Shelley has added two more sons to her brood of three boys. Sadly, and it makes me tear up to write this, my cousin Becky, the mother of these three darling young women died suddenly last year of a heart attack.

I’m up early getting ready for my drive up to the North Georgia Mountains where I’ll reunite with my cousins at the One-Shot cabin. Since the cabin is up for sale, it will probably be the last time I’ll have a chance to be in the space that has such personal meaning and memories for each of us.

I’ve been looking forward to this reunion for quite some time. It has been years since I’ve seen the girls and I’ve not had a chance to meet their children yet with the exception of Josh. Life gets in the way of families getting together sometimes and you always think there will be more time. Maybe next year we tell ourselves and the years just pass us by. The last time I spoke with Becky I remember exactly where I was sitting and what we said. We both thought at our age that we had all the time in the world. Her early death last year reinforced how we may not always get another chance.

While I’m home for the Thanksgiving holiday with my family and friends, I’m taking time this time, to see Becky’s girls and grandchildren making good on that promise I made a few years ago to get up to the cabin again.

Even though the two women I associate most with the One-Shot cabin will be missing in body today, I feel sure that the echo of their distinctive voices will somehow be present. Both my great aunt Wylly, who named the cabin and infused it with her energy and her grandaughter, my cousin Becky, who raised her family there and called it home had the kind of voice you would never forget. I don’t even have to close my eyes to hear them now. I have a feeling I’ll be hearing them again today. Whether it’s a whisper of the past calling out from a corner of the cabin, or in the voices and expressions of Shelley, Mikellah and McKenzie, I think I’ll have that moment together with them all, for one last time at the One-Shot cabin.

Rebecca Anne St. John & Wylly Folk St. John

July 4, 1972

Paying Less For More

In my last post I asked which light cost $698 and which one cost a more sensible $65. I took the picture of the boy above last Saturday night just before my friend Tina’s big birthday bash and he happened to be looking in the direction of the correct answer. He’s looking to the left which is the opposite direction that most people went. The bulk of my commenters guessed the light on the right was the one we had dangling from the ceiling. Interestingly, people thought the less expensive one which we choose was the pricey designer model. John emailed a picture he took today of ours as it looks in the master bedroom. Thanks to everyone who took the time to offer a guess.

Resurrection Sunday – Flighty

Resurrection: Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin resurrēctiō, resurrēctiōn-, from Latin resurrēctus, past participle of resurgere, to rise again.

or this

The act of bringing back to practice, notice, or use; revival

I’ve been thinking a bit about my first blog site where I left a few things behind that were important to me. Intimate and personal, they just sit there now waiting for someone to stumble across them. Sometimes, I feel a need to go back through my memories and resurrect some for another look. I find it interesting that my feelings haven’t changed much since I wrote the post below about year ago. This seems a bit silly on reflection because while I haven’t done everything on the list of ” shoulds ” that nag at me for attention, I really have accomplished quite a lot in the last twelve months.

I’m going home to America in a few days and while I usually rent a car at the airport, this time my daughter will be picking me up. This is the longest amount of time we have ever gone without seeing each other and I am so looking forward to spending time with her. Six months seems to go by so quickly when there’s a laundry list of goals you want to complete, but when you’re away from the people you love, it can feel like forever.

There’s a song from my teen years that was a hit for an English band you may remember called Bad Company, it’s a remake of a Little Feat song and it’s been more recently associated with Alison Krauss. When I hear it in my head, it’s always the rockin version that Bad Company sings, but the best I could find was the version below by Alison Krauss. It’s a good one too, but a little tame for the amount of excitement I’m going to feel stepping out the doors of the airport.

If you have a minute, take a listen to the soundtrack that keeps running through my brain today … because as confused as I get going forward sometimes, my heart still knows the way back to Atlanta.

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Flighty

October 17, 2008

Like these birds, who could not seem rest for more than a minute or two, I feel flighty and unsettled. I watched them yesterday as they duplicated the same pattern over and over. Back and forth they went, flying across the same piece of ground never going more than a few feet from where they started before going back to the beginning. Appearing as if they were assembling for a grand take off on an important journey, they would lift off in mass with a great flap of wings only to fly around for a minute and go back and start over.

As the seasons change, I feel a sense of anxiety to get certain things done. None come easily and all require a fair amount of self education. I struggle with the need for perfection and I’m never quite satisfied with my writing, my photography, or the pace at which I allow myself to develop. It’s about fear really, fear that there won’t be enough time to do everything before the seasons change, both literally and metaphorically and I am out of time.

Today, while my head is filled with flighty unsettled thoughts, my spirit, like the birds going back and forth, is struggling to stay focused and serene. Instinctually, like the birds, I know the direction of my journey. Lord knows, I’ve been working out flight plans in my mind for years. Today, I resolve to just be grateful for motion, even if it’s scattered, and tomorrow, well, maybe tomorrow will be a day filled with full flight.

Choosing The Path

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I saw the surgeon today for a follow up appointment concerning my hip. In case you missed my news about the big decision I’m facing, you can go here to catch up.

Go on … have a look and I’ll be waiting when you get back.

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Right … so now that you know all the gruesome details, let’s get back to my doctor’s visit. First, I want to explain for any American readers that in the UK, a surgeon is addressed as Mr, Mrs, or Miss instead of Doctor. After so many years of calling on physicians in my professional life, it’s tough to break the habit of saying Doctor when addressing my surgeon. Today I had an appointment to discuss the findings of my MRA and Mr Surgeon repeated how this surgery could make it possible for me to continue doing the things I enjoy. I went in with a ton of questions along with a good bit of research including this useful article.

Because I had spent so much time reading about the procedure, I went into the appointment thinking that I would not have the surgery, but just tough out the pain instead … knowing that eventually I would need to have a hip replacement at about sixty or so. I am a long way from sixty though and my conversation in the surgeon’s office made me reconsider the possibility of having the surgery.

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John and I walked 105 miles of the TMB last year through the French, Swiss, and Italian Alps and we have been planning a return trip in September when I turn 50. These pictures are some of the images I captured last year. The surgeon thought without the surgery, activities like this along with running would need to be shelved and replaced with the more sedate form of exercise … swimming. Have I mentioned how much I really dislike swimming?

I’m including a few more pictures from the TMB (Tour du Mont Blanc) for you to see … while I go back to my research and try to make up my mind.  As always, your thoughts are appreciated.

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Veterans Day – Family Extensions

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Extending my tour of duty

In 1978, I stood with a group of strangers and holding up my right hand, I promised to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I went on to raise my hand two more times when I extended my military tour for six months and later when I joined the National Guard under a program called SMP.

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Being sworn in for SMP National Guard and ROTC

Soldiering is never easy, but it is particularly difficult now when so many face the possibility of life altering injury and death everyday. I enlisted during peace time and although I was trained and ever ready for the possibility of battle, my daily life was relatively peaceful with my biggest threat to my safety coming from the sexual harassment from others who wore the uniform. To borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens, it was the best and worst of times for me in many ways and while there are many stories I could share on another day, today’s post has a different purpose. This is the day that Americans honor our living veterans.

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Basic Training - Ft Gordon, Georgia - 1979

Today, there are many wearing the various uniforms that make up the different branches of the American military family. Men and women who fight every day committed to the words they repeated on the day they volunteered to serve, ” I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”  I use the word family with great intention because once you have assembled, trained, and lived with people in anticipation of a life threatening mission, you begin to see them as an extension of your family of origin. For many who grow up in less than ideal situations it may be the only family they know.

There are three veterans in particular that I like to think of as part of my family and while we never served together, I have heard bits of their individual stories over the years and have an understanding of the collective cost of their time in service. While my path was easy, these three men who fought in Vietnam, Jamie, Joe, and Bill have a different story to tell. I know what it’s like to be ready, but they know what it means to go.

Today, as advertisers hawk big sales on various goods or you sit in frustration outside a public office closed for the day, please remember the real reason for Veterans Day and offer those currently serving or those who have served, a much needed and simple…thank you.

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